1931-32 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
Introduction, 1927/8-39, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
Academy Awards Summaries
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®
This was the first year that the ceremony was broadcast nationally on radio. It was also the year that a Short Subject category was added to the awards, bringing the total number to ten:
MGM's Best Picture winner - director Edmund Goulding's and legendary MGM executive and producer Irving Thalberg's Grand Hotel, was an all-star extravaganza soap opera, with Greta Garbo (as a bored and aging ballerina), John Barrymore (as an impoverished, desperate baron/jewel thief), Lionel Barrymore (as a doomed factory clerk/bookkeeper), Joan Crawford (as a stenographer), Lewis Stone (as a physician), and Wallace Beery (as a shady industrialist). The setting of the slick, large-budgeted, 'prestige' film, based upon Vicki Baum's best-seller, was within the ritzy walls of a glamorous Berlin hotel, and it followed the intermingling lives of the characters over a brief two-day period, with romance, solitude, and murder.
[Grand Hotel is one of only three 'Best Picture' winners that was not also nominated for Best Director. More deserving of winning recognition for directing was Edmund Goulding for Grand Hotel instead of Frank Borzage. [The other two were William Wellman for Wings (1927/28) and director Bruce Beresford for Driving Miss Daisy (1989).] To the present year, the film is still exceptional because it is the only Best Picture winner that received no other nominations. And it is only one of a few films that was named Best Picture, but failed to win any other awards. [The other two films that won the Best Picture award without winning any other awards were Broadway Melody (1928/29) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1935).]
A sure-fire popular and crowd-pleasing choice, Grand Hotel won over seven other nominees:
Frank Borzage won his second (and last) Best Director Award for Bad Girl, defeating directors Josef von Sternberg for Shanghai Express and King Vidor for The Champ. Borzage had won in the very first award ceremony for Best Dramatic Picture Direction for Seventh Heaven (1927/28).
For the first and only time in Academy history, a tie was declared in the Best Actor category between two actors:
The remaining actor nominee was Alfred Lunt (with his sole career nomination) as "The Actor" in director Sidney Franklin's The Guardsman (with two nominations and no wins).
All three of the Best Actress nominees were from MGM Studios - the first time that this had occurred. Broadway stage actress Helen Hayes (with her first nomination), later known as the "First Lady of the American Theater," won her first award for her melodramatic role (in her screen debut) as a self-sacrificing mother (Madelon Claudet) who had to give up her illegitimate son in director Edgar Selwyn's short, 73-minute tearjerker The Sin of Madelon Claudet (the film's sole nomination and win). It was based on the 1920s Broadway play The Lullaby. [Hayes performed more memorably in the year's award-nominated Arrowsmith. It would be another 38 years until she won the Best Supporting Actress award for Airport (1970), her only other nomination. Note: She is also noted for being the first woman to win these four different awards - Oscar (1932, 1970), Tony (1947, 1958), Emmy (1953), and Grammy (1976), by 1976!]
Hayes defeated two other actress nominees:
[Real-life husband and wife theatrical co-stars, Lunt and Fontanne re-created their stage roles in Ferenc Molnar's marital comedy Broadway stage play - the film turned out to be the sole sound film the couple made in their careers. It was also the first time a married couple received simultaneous acting nominations.]
Walt Disney won two citations for animation: one, the first award for the newly-established category of Short Subject: Cartoon with the first Technicolor cartoon Flowers and Trees; and the second, a Special Award for his four-year-old creation, Mickey Mouse. [The first Mickey Mouse sound cartoon with Mickey's screen debut performance was Steamboat Willie (1928), released on November 18, 1928. The date is considered Mickey Mouse's birthdate. Strangely, Mickey's first sound cartoon didn't include Mickey's voice -- he didn't speak until his ninth short, The Karnival Kid (1929) when he said the words: "Hot dogs!" Walt's voice was used for Mickey.]
The comedy duo Laurel and Hardy received a Short Subject: Comedy award for The Music Box (their first and only award) about the struggles of moving a piano up a flight of stairs (an apt analogy of the common man struggling against insurmountable odds during the Depression).
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Howard Hawks' classic gangster film Scarface: The Shame of the Nation went un-nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Paul Muni).
Charlie Chaplin's greatest film with the Little Tramp character, City Lights (1931), a silent film (with a musical soundtrack and sound effects, however) released three years after the talkies were introduced (and presumably the victim of pro-talking film prejudice), was not nominated for a single Academy Award.
Nominated and winning actor Fredric March's deserving co-star Miriam Hopkins and director Rouben Mamoulian did not receive nominations for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. [March already had one Oscar nomination to his credit for The Royal Family of Broadway (1930/31).] Two powerful actors in James Whale's archetypal horror genre film Frankenstein went un-recognized: Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein (who attempted to 'play God') and Boris Karloff as the Monster.
The Academy failed to nominate a number of deserving actresses: